Rooms & Gardens

Painted Rooms

Words by Camilla Frances
Images from SJ Axelby and Cabana
Image from oltrepò pavese

Via Bigli, Martina Mondadori's childhood home; SJ Axelby. 

Inspired by the interiors she saw in Cabana, artist SJ Axelby chose 12 atmospheric rooms to paint. Discover her choices here, and the secrets to a watercolor-worthy interior.
 
When Martina Mondadori opened an email one morning and found a beautifully observed watercolor of her childhood home in Milan, she was captivated. "It was so special, it captured the essence of that room so well," says the Cabana founder and Editor-in-Chief. "I knew I wanted to see more."
 
The sender was British artist SJ Axelby, founder of Instagram's popular Room Portrait Club, who found particular inspiration within the pages of Cabana. "What I love most is how the atmosphere is captured; [Cabana's photographs] almost look like a painting, which is a lovely way to start an interior portrait."
 
Of the 12 Cabana photographs she has now painted - each showing an atmospheric finely detailed room from the pages of the magazine - did one stand out? "There was one of Martina’s mother's house with plates on the wall; I love to paint ceramics and the terracotta warmth of the room with the depth of the indigo blue was sublime."

 

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A Mongiardino-designed apartment in Paris; Mark Luscombe-Whyte for Cabana N17; SJ Axelby 2022. 

Indeed, rooms rich with detail - "ribbons, trimmings, architectural details and paintings within paintings" - are a joy to paint, says SJ, admitting she is less keen on capturing, "shelves of books, people and animals". As for what makes a truly great room? "It’s much like the composition of a painting: balance, colour, pattern, and composition. An interior for me has to have soul; I love anything with a tasteful mix of pattern and a few antiques thrown in."
 
"SJ’s watercolours are for me pure escapism," says Martina. "They transport you into another dimension, literally into other rooms that through her touch feel so cosy and dreamy."
 
SJ Axelby x Cabana: Discover SJ Axelby's full collection of watercolors, available exclusively at cabanamagazine.com

 

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An interior by Studio Peregalli, painted by SJ Axelby; a hand-painted presentation folder, SJ Axelby.

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Christophe Gollut's home; Mark Luscombe-Whyte for Cabana N16; SJ Axelby.

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The Shell Bedroom at Houghton Hall; Ashley Hicks for Cabana N17; SJ Axelby. 

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A sitting room in Bologna; Guido Taroni for Cabana N4; SJ Axelby. 

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A country kitchen in Kent; James McDonald for Cabana N15; SJ Axelby. 

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A dining room in Russia; Charles Thompson for Cabana N6; SJ Axelby. 

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A sitting room in Bologna; Guido Taroni for Cabana N4; SJ Axelby. 

 

SJ Axelby x Cabana

 

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